What being a barista has taught me about PR

Posted on December 21, 2012

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I have been fortunate to have held a really wonderful job throughout my college career. Actually, it has only been the last two years, but if you ask anyone they’ll tell you I’ve been there for four.

It’s probably because Heavenly Cup LLC is all I talk about.

If I am not home, chances are good that I am here.

If I am not home, chances are good that I am here.

But, I didn’t realize until the other night how much my job wasn’t just paying my bills, but it was also teaching me a lot about marketing and PR as well. Case in point:

1. Managing my clients

Yes, I have customers, but the regularity that each of us receive our customers and serve our customers really makes them clients, and we do anything that they need to make them happy. Newcomers are always surprised when I remember what they ordered the first time they visited the shop, but that’s my job and those newcomers usually turn into regulars. It’s also my job to ask their children about their days at school, to ask about work and weekend plans and to remember that Maddie has her learners permit and Joan is a little too freaked out to drive with her, so her husband Kevin has been teaching her how to drive. Above all else, this job as taught me that happy customers make relationships and relationships keep them coming back.

For example, I know that Larry gets his decaf mocha with whipped cream and chocolate sauce and he drinks it with a straw. And I always make sure to look for the shiny quarters when giving him his $1.50 change back because he likes to collect the 50 states and always examines them to see if he already has them or not. That 50 cents always goes in my tip jar. Larry passes a Starbucks on his way into Uptown Westerville for work and he could stop there to get the same drink, but he comes to see me, and he likes to read my articles in the University newspaper and keep up on my internships and classes.

And then there’s Andy, who used to come in every day during his work break to eat a chocolate muffin and drink a White Chocolate Mayhem, and we all knew that Andy had been trying to hard so find a job as an admissions counselor at any University and when he finally landed the job in Toledo about a month ago we all hugged him and said a sad but happy goodbye. He sent us this card:

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The running couple on Saturday mornings that gets large skinny lattes is pregnant and they made sure to share their happy news with us. And I have to make sure there is at least one coffee cake left on Thursday nights because no-nonsense Bob will come in and tell me to make him anything that is $4 and give him a coffee cake because we have a $5 minimum on the credit card machine and he needs a coffee and a snack to take to his Bible study. Oh, and last week Ervan  on Wednesday nights didn’t make it to the shop until about five minutes after we had closed, but I let him in anyways and made him his chai with only a little milk because he’s kind of lactose intolerant and I know that on Wednesdays he’s just leaving a work meeting and has a late night ahead of him.

Yes, relationships are how you keep clients happy, and putting forth more work than you had intended is as equally important. Like last Thursday when two families of 13 people total came through the door at 6:57 when we close at 7 and their small children were knocking over gift baskets and one little girl spilled her hot chocolate and in my hurry I knocked over an entire coffee urn of hot water that was soaking on the floor and water went gushing everywhere as if a kiddie pool in the backyard had popped. When those kinds of things happen, there is nothing to do but smile, take a breath and make four children’s temperature hot chocolates, one large hot chocolate, one small Buckeye Mocha, one large Snickers and one large decaf Almond Joy. And when you can finally close and lock the door behind those happy customers and you see the muddy footprints and hot chocolate all over your previously cleaned floor and the small pond behind the counter there is nothing to do but grab the mop.

The point of this all is, that even though I have yet to obtain my desired experience in a public relations or marketing or advertising agency, my little evening job has taught me all the fundamentals that I need to be successful in an agency, client-driven environment. And I’m looking forward to the customer service side of my new internship in the Public Information office of The Ohio Department of Transportation to solidify those fundamentals.

I will continue this theme another day because there are so many lessons that I could write about. Stay tuned!

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Posted in: My thoughts